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Inbox: What is Mets' biggest offseason need?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers questions from fans
December 5, 2017

With the Winter Meetings now less than a week away, there's a sense within the baseball industry that trades and signings are about to heat up. The Rangers made a major move late Monday, according to sources, signing left-hander Mike Minor -- a potential Mets target -- away from the

With the Winter Meetings now less than a week away, there's a sense within the baseball industry that trades and signings are about to heat up. The Rangers made a major move late Monday, according to sources, signing left-hander Mike Minor -- a potential Mets target -- away from the Royals. Other dominos are sure to follow.
To tide you over until the Mets make their first major move of the offseason, here's a new batch of questions and answers:
Hot Stove Tracker
What does general manager Sandy Alderson see as this team's biggest hole to fill?
-- @wa2k_1999 via Twitter

It's relief pitching and it's not close. Though the Mets plan to acquire -- at the least -- a second baseman and a first base/outfield hybrid this offseason, they have made their clear focus relief pitching. The Mets aim to acquire at least one reliever in a second tier of free agents that includes Bryan Shaw, Brandon Morrow, Addison Reed and others. There's enough inventory out there to think they'll succeed.
Adding one of those pitchers to a back-end mix that already includes Jeurys Familia and Jerry Blevins will fortify what was a weakness for the Mets last season.
Me personally? I don't think they should stop there. I would acquire a starting pitcher on a one- or two-year deal -- such as a Jason Vargas or Carsten Sabathia type -- to provide insurance in the event that Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler and others miss time due to injury. Acquiring a starter would also allow the Mets to bump Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman to the bullpen, where they could be ultra-valuable in swingman roles.
But given the constraints of a limited budget, it appears unlikely the Mets will go down that path. They are looking to relief pitching more than anything as a panacea for this roster.
:: Submit a question to the Mets Inbox ::
Would the Mets be open to acquiring a third baseman, or is it definitely Asdrubal Cabrera's job?
-- @j_nucero via Twitter

Right now, it's Cabrera's job, as the Mets look mostly at second-base options. There's still a chance they could find a deal on a third baseman and pivot at that time, pushing Cabrera over to the keystone. But the Mets' clear preference is to have Cabrera play third.
How's it possible any player who's arbitration-eligible argues to get a raise when they had a Matt Harvey -like season?
-- @cm3vet via Twitter

Simply put, baseball's strategy structure, which offers little leverage to players with less than three years of service time, tilts more in their favor once they reach arbitration. That's the give and take of MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement. The mechanics of the arbitration system make it very difficult not to earn raises from year to year.
Is Noah Syndergaard going to be making his own medical decisions in 2018 again?
-- @kellyawallace via Twitter

I suspect this question was asked tongue-in-cheek, but it's a symptom of a greater issue that, for the first time in a long time, the Mets are addressing. The team dismissed trainer Ray Ramirez in October and, while you can certainly argue that Ramirez was far from the root of the problem, it's the most public move the Mets have made in this department since hiring the controversial Mike Barwis to oversee their training operations in 2014.
The Mets are not done. They won't replace Ramirez until they first hire what they're calling a "high performance director" to oversee all aspects of the team's conditioning -- from strength training to nutrition, cardiovascular work, even sleep. That person will have input in the hiring process for a trainer and for any additional positions the Mets see fit.
Is that enough to keep the Mets healthy? Time will tell. Barwis has earned his share of criticism in the past, as have various other links on the chain of command, mostly for communication issues. But the Mets are making real change to their process this offseason. We'll see how much effect it winds up having.
Will Mets-affiliated Hall of Fame voters rally around Johan Santana?
-- @HofJohan via Twitter

First things first: Writers should show no bias toward or against players they cover when voting for the Hall of Fame.
Now that that's out of the way, let's examine Santana's case objectively. One of baseball's best pitchers from 2002 through his first shoulder surgery in '10, Santana finished his career 139-78 with a 3.20 ERA, winning two Cy Young Awards and finishing in the top seven six times. He threw a no-hitter.
It was a spectacular peak, but probably not long enough for most Hall voters to recognize. Compare Santana's stat line to those of Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling, who have both struggled to earn votes from more than half the electorate. Both Mussina and Schilling won significantly more games than Santana, which, while not my cup of tea, remains important among a representative percentage of the voting bloc. Santana edges both in ERA and adjusted ERA, which factors in ballparks and league conditions. But he has roughly 1,000 fewer strikeouts than both Mussina and Schilling. Again, his lack of longevity hurts him.
Though Santana appeared in four postseasons, he went 1-3 with a 3.97 ERA overall -- numbers that can't prop up his candidacy the way they can for Schilling or even Mussina.
If you look at Santana's peak alone, he's a clear Hall of Famer. But most voters take both peak and longevity into account, which would make Santana, statistically, a below-average Hall of Famer. Add in the fact that the ballot is already overloaded with worthy candidates, and I just don't see it happening. Santana will score a few votes here and there, but I doubt he'll ever make real noise on the ballot.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.